Arts Integration in the Elementary Math Classroom
It’s curious that math and art have traditionally been placed on opposite sides of the spectrum, especially when you consider that they share many common features. Artists, like mathematicians, are problem solvers; they know how to improvise with raw materials, and look at their environment and their world in new and innovative ways. Both must be able to communicate, collaborate, think critically and approach their palate from perspectives other than their own. That’s why we are so stuck on arts integration—that is, bringing math into the art classroom and art into the math classroom.
Last week, we shared two of our favorite arts integration activities from Caren Holtzman and Lynn Susholtz’ book Object Lessons: Teaching Math through Visual Arts. Readers were enthusiastic about it, so we’re sharing one more lesson plan with you:
Arts Integration in the Elementary Math Classroom: Venn Sihlouettes
This activity is called Venn Silhouettes and, as you may have guessed from the title, it asks students to work with a Venn diagram and a silhouette. This could work for older students, but it is most appropriate for grades 3-5.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started: An overhead projector, markers, colored pencils or crayons, large white paper and tape.
Before you begin the activity, your students should be familiar with the following vocabulary words: Venn diagram, silhouette, overlap, same, different, compare, contrast, survey, graph, certain, equally likely, unlikely, impossible, profile.
Once you’ve familiarized your students with these vocabulary words, pair them up in groups of two. Have them tape their piece of paper to the wall opposite the projector; then have them take turns tracing each other’s silhouette on the same sheet of paper. If you look at the picture to the right, you’ll see that the silhouettes overlap but are facing opposite directions.
Next, have your students discuss things they have in common and things that make them unique from each other. Their task is to use colored pencils to either draw or use words to illustrate what makes them unique in the sections of their faces that do not overlap. After this, they should use the markers to write or illustrate those things they share in common.
Once they are finished, it’s up to you to decide where you want to take the activity. If it is still early in the school year, this is a great ice-breaker; it’s also a great way to spruce up your walls and create a student gallery.
Should you choose to create a student gallery, you can build on the activity by having your students conduct a “gallery walk” where they garner ideas and think about new things they could add to their own silhouettes. This activity is useful for triggering what Holtzman and Susholtz call “I wonder” questions: “Does John have a younger sister like I do? How long did Kelly live in Germany and why?” This will prompt students to interact and communicate with one another to find answers to their questions.
If you want to take the activity further, ask your students to collect data from the entire class; they can convert their findings to percentages and create graphs.
If you are like most educators, you’re on the prowl for new ways to engage your students. That's why Marygrove's Master in the Art of Teaching program continues to add free downloadable guides to our website. If you find our resources to be helpful, you should know that this is only a small portion of the forward-thinking career and professional development ideas you’ll encounter at Marygrove College.